Q and A with Core Autosport's Jon Bennett With back-to-back American Le Mans Series championships under its belt, CORE autosport founder Jon Bennett now has his sights set on repeating that performance in 2013.
But the 2011 and 2012 PC class drivers championship runner-up wants to finish the final year of the American Le Mans Series on an even brighter note by claiming his first individual driver's championship. Bennett finished second in the points in the past two years and will again team up with young star Colin Braun for their 2013 assault.
Bennett and CORE autosport team manager Morgan Brady provides a unique video insight into the Rock Hill, SC-based team. See video at end of interview.
Q: When you first started this journey with CORE autosport two years ago, could you ever have thought that you would have achieved what's been done so far?
A: "No, it's really been amazing. I do often pinch myself from time to time. But it's really indicative of all the work that's been put in and all of the good strategy that Morgan Brady and the team has applied.
"It's very satisfying in the fact that we've been able to attract very quick drivers and continue to pay close attention to details. It all comes together.
"Results are not guaranteed by any means but I think when you have a good solid program, the results just come."
Q: You've taken two consecutive championships with different driver squads. Does that show the team's ability to win, regardless of who is driving?
A: "When Morgan and I met several years ago, I talked to him of what my expectations were for owning and running a team and how important organization is to me.
"Luckily, in Morgan, I found a bit of a kindred spirit, where we share the same philosophy in how things should be done.
"I think the proof that we've done well with different driver lineups underlines the importance of being organized and having a plan every weekend for each event.
"Clearly we're not the only team that comes to the races prepared and organized, but I do think we do it on a consistent basis and the good results are a part of that preparation."
Q: Back-to-back championships are a challenge, but going for a three-peat is even an even bigger mountain to climb. How much harder and smarter is the team going to have to work for next year?
A: "It's strange. I, in many ways, still feel like a bit of a newcomer to ALMS. I don't look at our success as something that's guaranteed or something that comes easily.
"Even though we've had some success, I think that when we arrive at Sebring in a couple of months, we'll still feel that our prior performance and results are in no way guaranteed to us. It's not going to be easy.
"The feeling that we're the dominant team and the ones to beat has never come over our team. I just feel like we've had good results and definitely relish those results. But in terms of feeling of dominance, that's just not what's going through the halls at CORE.
"We know that next year, there will be a new group of PC teams and we expect them to be quite competitive. We're going to have to step up our game to meet that."
Q: How was the season from your perspective as a driver, having won your first PC race and finishing second again in the championship?
A: "When I met Colin earlier in the year, he said he joined our team because he thought he could win races and championships with our organization.
"I reminded him that I hadn't won a race yet and he said I'd definitely win a race this year.
"I think Colin's confidence has helped me. He has done a fair amount of coaching.
"When you're at this level, it's not coaching the mechanics but rather coaching a winning spirit.
"It's about knowing what it takes to go head-to-head with very well known drivers in this business, like former IndyCar or Formula One drivers. They put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. Our job is to get into the car and not be intimidated by that.
"I think Colin has helped me a lot, in that aspect."
Q: How much would it mean to you and Colin to challenge for and take the PC title yourselves in 2013?
A: "That's definitely our goal for next year, to win the teams' championship and for Colin and I to share the drivers' championship.
"We definitely have the experience and the team behind us to do it. We're just going to have to have a few things come our way. A little bit of good luck won't hurt and a lot of dedication to the mission."
Q: How important is it to have continuity in your car for next year?
A: "I think it's a big advantage. It goes back to organization. What I've learned in this business so far is that many deals don't come together until the last minute.
"It's hard on the team when there's a lot of unknowns. The fact that Colin is back with us and that we've already signed Mark Wilkins for the long races, and we're staying with the same engineer in Gary Davies, who did an excellent job for us last year, is basically a continuation of our successful 2012 season.
"We all know each other. There will be no introductions at Sebring. I just think it helps to gel the working parts of what we do.
"It's a big help to know what your vision looks like before the start of the season."
Q: Going into the final season of the ALMS, where would you hope the success achieved so far will take CORE autosport into the future?
A: "I think the 2013 season is clearly one more opportunity for us to work at something we know well, and that's running the PC car.
"But at the same time, we're going to have to have our eyes wide open in terms of opportunities for 2014 and what it will look like.
"It will be an interesting season, while we'll be doing something that we know very well, we'll be making decisions about 2014 and beyond that we may not know so well."
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